The government has given one of its strongest indications yet that it is going cold on hydrogen for home heating.
The energy minister Lord Callanan told The Climate Show with Tom Heap: “It will not play a major role in home heating.
“There’s no way that could be practically achieved”.
When hydrogen burns, it gives off no carbon dioxide as it is pure h2 – there is no carbon in the molecule.
This has led to considerable interest in using it as a domestic fuel for home heating and cooking to replace natural gas which is methane, a fossil fuel that worsens climate change when it burns.
Natural gas is still the workhorse of domestic energy with roughly three-quarters of UK homes on the gas grid and many supply companies are hoping hydrogen might be close to a ‘drop-in replacement’ for their current fuel.
But opposition has been mounting.
Many scientists point out that it takes enormous amounts of electricity to make clean green hydrogen, and it would be much more efficient to use that electricity directly in our homes to run heat pumps.
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The National Infrastructure Commission, the body created by the government to advise on critical fabric for the nation’s economy, has said there is “no public policy case for hydrogen” in domestic heating.
Lord Martin Callanan said: “It is clear that the vast majority of decarbonisation of home heating in the UK will be electrification.
“If we have hydrogen production locally it might play a small role in some localised areas”.
One of those areas could be the Yorkshire coastal town of Redcar, where a pilot project is proposed to swap natural gas for hydrogen and force people to choose between that or a heat pump.
But there is considerable local opposition, with residents questioning the safety of hydrogen and resenting the imposition of a change to their home heating.
Locals have already rejected a similar hydrogen village idea close to Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.
However, some gas companies are still insisting there is a role for hydrogen.
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Tim Harwood is Hydrogen Programme Director for the supply company Northern Gas, and they are backing the Redcar trial.
“We’re doing this project to demonstrate we can convert the gas network over to hydrogen.
“We can do it safely and we can provide resilience…and customers like it as it doesn’t change their lifestyle very much as it is similar to using natural gas.”
Whether the Redcar hydrogen trial will go ahead is still up in the air, with the government promising a decision before the end of the year.
But overall they seem to be pushing new hydrogen towards industry and away from our homes.
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